Supernormal Body Image

At the weekend I went to a festival called Supernormal with my punk choir, The Hackney Secular Singers. It is an experimental art and music festival in Brazier’s Park, Oxfordshire in and around the grounds of a gothic mansion which has been an artists’ commune and residence since the ’40s. Ian Fleming and Marianne Faithfull spent time growing up in its bohemian enclosure.

Choir rehearsing in the garden, Brazier’s Park, image by Jemima Broadbridge.

Terrace where we sang. Photo by Jemima Broadbridge of the choir

Musically this festival was quite geeky. Sound artists twiddled knobs in tupperware boxes with wires attached to them. Lights and torches came into the soundscape mix with light sensitive technology creating hypnotic drone music as they call it. Pedals and electrical goods littered the floor of the stage which was literally in front of our feet. The drone musician knew what each item was there for and he carefully manipulated each one. The intensity of his own immersion was like a ritual.

Other bands had ‘normal’ musical instruments, often jamming with apparently no synchronicity. A friend explained that this method allows moments of rare togetherness and tuneful episodes to shine phenomenally. Some of it was a bit ’70s prog rock; I am a Hawkwind fan so that worked for me.

It was a very uncommercial festival and too small to get lost in. It seemed like most people there were artists taking part, and there were odd processions, performative interludes and creative opportunities galore. In the mornings there was life drawing in a gorgeous old barn. People were invited to model and/or draw so there were some new models trying out, some as a duo to take the edge off. I naturally did a stint, as well as some drawing.

Campbell Works artists made and baked bread in the shape of life-size humans.

They specially built ovens to fit the cremations!

Guests were invited to a bread feast where body-pieces of the wholemeal natural yeast bread were eaten dipped in a dressing of olive oil with garlic and herbs .

Talking of body parts I especially enjoyed trying on Miracle Shapers by the artists who are Jerrica. This is participatory art about body image, challenging the idea that we obsess about body parts we dislike, in particular fat, and celebrate them instead. Artists Diane Archer and Christina Sabberton made soft golden pads in the shape of bums, boobs, willys, balls and bellys. They are stuffed inside clothes, worn on the outside for display or attached to special underwear garments.

First the boobs and behind

Boobs and bum. Luckily I had a compliant dress on

with a belly too. Jerrica probably have better quality images available soon… my phone camera being what it is

Possibly pregnant

These women were so jolly. Here Diane sports all their wares available for auction at the end of their session

When I told Lucy about this she asked if the parts had the weight of real fat. They don’t, so you just get a visual impression. They are fun items designed for convenience to make a point.

I liked being able to try out the ‘bigger me’ look. It might be interesting to wear the parts discreetly and experience life as a different size with people who do not know me. How do people relate to me differently like that and how much depends upon my personality, and do I alter my personality when appearing much larger? An experiment waiting to happen!

Finally I am looking forward to seeing the drawings by artists of Ortelius Drew; who documented as much of the festival as they could by drawing.

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